Reddit Reddit reviews Out of Egypt

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Historical Middle East Biographies
Historical Biographies
Out of Egypt
Picador USA
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1 Reddit comment about Out of Egypt:

u/kerat ยท 1 pointr/arabs

So I'll come out and confess that I didn't finish it. I didn't find it as bad as everyone else seems to have found it though. My excuses are: full-time job and part-time uni at the moment. I work full time have have to submit assignments every few weeks, so I often work on university stuff after I get home from real work. So I got half way and then just stopped.

Having said that, some things I liked were Mahfouz's characterization and character building. He has a great way of portraying people and describing their actions and interactions.

I also enjoyed the setting, Alexandria in the 50s. But I wish he had painted more of a picture for us. I'm sure at the time of publishing people didn't want to read endless descriptions of life as it was at the time, but everyone knows Egypt has transformed entirely over the last 80 years, and I was really hoping to get a vivid description of the city and the people and the buildings. It's hard to explain, but this book "Out of Egypt" by Andre Aciman is that kind of book.

He's from a Jewish family that flees Egypt after the Suez War, and he basically just describes his childhood. It's absolutely wonderful. All the diverse nationalities. Greek bread sellers and bakers, eastern Europeans, Brits, French, Serbs. His lovely lower-class servants who seem to be no different whatsoever from lower-class servants today. His descriptions of going to the beach everyday and riding the tram with his mother and grandmother. From the book you get a vivid idea of what life was like in Alexandria in the 50s, and that's what I was most eager to find in Mahfouz's book. And granted, there was some of that in this book, it was inundated with nostalgia in parts, but not really in the same way.

Either way, I didn't find the book bad. Not at all. It was a tougher read than what I'm used to given that I never read arabic books in general.

Another thing I enjoyed was the psyche into the minds of Egyptians in the 50s. This was another great aspect of the book. There was a fantastic line somewhere in the beginning where he lists the different factions and his complaints for them, where he says he never understood the communists. Found that hilarious but i'll be damned if i can find the quote.

Now someone correct me if I'm mistaken, but I think an underlying theme of the book is that the revolution failed. That it resulted in no change. I take issue with this view. I think Mahfouz, like many of today's revolutionaries, felt that the revolution was a panacea, a cure-all for every problem in the country. And when it didn't result in mass equality and fraternity, he became depressed about it and cynical about the whole thing. I think with hindsight we can say that the revolution was hugely important, and certainly resulted in a large-scale change in the society that impacts us till today. Some of it was good and some of it was bad, but when i look back at it today, I see it as a natural progression of history and the time. They went from a stuffy old aristocracy to a military authoritarian modernizer, which is the same progression many other countries went through. (French revolution, Bolshevik revolution, etc). The French got rid of their king and aristocracy, fell into a pit of murder and factional in-fighting, which only resulted in the end in the rise of a military authoritarian modernizer. The Bolsheviks got rid of the king and aristocracy, and replaced them again with a military regime.

Anyway, that was my rant